Jason Mayden is a Designer for the Nike’s Jordan Brand, and got to where he is today through a combination of persistence and determination.
Growing up in Southside Chicago, Jason remembers sending letters and sketches to Nike as a little kid. If he saw an article he really liked, he would send a letter to whomever the article pertained to. No answer. Maybe they lost it. If he really liked a shoe design he came up with he’d send that in too. Still, no answer. Maybe it was misplaced in the mail. For years this cycle went on.
Jason was a great football player in high school and received many scholarship offers from a variety of schools. His big, 6′3″ frame was made for football, but his steady hand, artistic ability and sense of style built for design. With the encouragement of both his coach and his mother, he decided to pursue a career in design.
He enrolled in design school where he was asked to design everything from clothes to cars. Half way through his first year, he applied for an internship with Nike. As the applications deadline approached, Jason hoped for success, but readied himself for potential disappointment. When he called to check the status of his application, they said that they “lost it.” Down but not out, Jason continued in his studies and when the internship came up the next year, he applied once more. This year when he called to check the status of his application, it had not been lost, but “misplaced”. Endless phone calls later, his application was found and Jason found himself as Nike’s newest intern. His persistence had paid off.
Eager to take on responsibilities, Jason asked his superiors what he could work on. No doubt he was discouraged when they condescendingly answered, “shoelace tips.” So, for the duration of his unpaid internship, Jason diligently worked on his version of shoelaces and tips. It just goes to show that in an internship, you have to do whatever it takes and have a good attitude while doing it to make it.
The main lesson that we received from Jason is that you can’t judge a book by its cover. When talking about the stereotypes surrounding designers, he said that at the end of the day it’s all about your product. The separation of “self and product,” is very important. Jason says that nobody knows who designed it, so the shoes have to hold their own and be able to speak for themselves. That is the part of his job that he really enjoys. “It really doesn’t matter who you are, at the end of the day, it’s all about your product.”